Netbooks rock for their portability, but they are somewhat of a letdown when it comes to screen real estate. For many users, this is a welcome tradeoff. But occasionally, things can start to feel cramped. The cascading workflow of most Windows desktops isn’t particularly conducive to the tight quarters you’ll find on a netbook screen. Just two windows open at once can start to feel claustrophobic, which is why most users spend their time on a netbook in fullscreen mode with their fingers close to the ALT+TAB keys. But even with a netbook, it helps to be able to let small windows hover unobtrusively over an active window. For example, if you have a mini player for iTunes or a Now Playing window for Windows Media Player or a Calculator or Notepad window that you’d like to have readily available. For Windows desktops with screen resolution to spare, it’s no problem to let these occupy some unused desktop space. But with a netbook, chances are that your active window is going to overlap that app when it’s at a size that’s suitable for working.
As a solution to this issue, you can use one of two third-party apps for keeping your windows in “Always on Top” mode, even if it’s not natively supported by the application. You can choose form FileBox Extender Utility or a script created by Labnol. Both are free, and both get the job done.
FileBox Extender Utility
FileBox Extender Utility is an oldie but a goodie. It’s currently free and unsupported, but it still does the trick. For each window, it adds a few new buttons. Most importantly for us, it adds a push-pin button that allows it to stay always on top. For example, if you activated the push pin on your Calculator window, you could then open a Microsoft Word document up and maximize it. The Calculator window would remain visible, even when you gave focus to Microsoft Word. If you need to peek behind it, you can simply click the Roll Up button or move it aside.
FileBox Extender also has a few other buttons, such as a favorites folder and a recent folders button.
You can download FileBox Extender here: http://www.hyperionics.com/files/index.asp
Labnol Always on Top Autohotkey Script
This Labnol script is more subtle than the FileBox Extender utility, and depending on your tastes and needs, that may be preferable to you. Rather than adding buttons to your windows, it activates a hotkey. When you have the Labnol executable running, you can press CTRL + SPACE to activate the window’s always on top mode. There is no roll-up button.
The advantage of this solution is that it’s very minimalistic. There’s no added clutter, and it has barely any footprint in terms of resources and CPU usage. Both of those points are important for netbook users.
The disadvantage is that you have to have the executable running in able for it to work. Also, if you forget that you installed it or allow someone else to use your computer and they accidentally activate the always on mode, there is no clear indication that this has been done or any clues on how to undo it.
Get the script here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/149566/Downloads/always-on-top.zip